Vem Cá – Informal Phrase

Most of us who are sufficiently versed in Portuguese know that the phrase “vem cá” means “come here” (though, technically, I suppose it should be as a command, ie “venha cá” ). There’s a second meaning which can be loosely translated into English as “hold on”, “wait just a second”, “listen up” or even “pay attention”, all of them serving as a way to call attention to something you wish to say.

Ex. “Vem cá, o que está acontecendo aqui?”
Ex. “Hold on a sec., what’s going on here?”

So how do you tell the difference between someone wanting you to come closer or wanting you to listen up? Aside from understanding the context, the informal usage has a slightly different intonation than the literal one.

In Portuguese, a substitute for “vem cá”, in the informal sense, is the phrase “olha só”. Some people might have an aversion to this secondary usage and may respond by saying “Vem cá pra onde? Eu não estou aqui já!?” (Come where? Am I not already here?).

2 thoughts on “Vem Cá – Informal Phrase

  1. This is so interesting! As a native speaker I have never thought about this before lol
    It is a good example to emphasize how important intonation is in Brazilian Portuguese.
    This same intonation makes a person be annoying when he/she tries to say “por favor” (please) in every sentence (how it happens in English). This just not happen in Brazilian Portuguese, because the way you ask is more important than the “por favor” in the end.

    • Hi Jonas,

      I also think it’s interesting. If there were some source or resource for learning Brazilian Portuguese intonation (sort of like a voice coach) for those who already know Portuguese, it would be something I would sign up for. My spoken Portuguese is just fine but I tend to lack that extra ‘umpf’ (effort) that is needed to make people believe I’m Brazilian for an extended amount of time. For a simple conversation, Brazilians just think I’m from another part of Brazil but with an intonation course, I’m sure I could fix that.

      While watching Mandrake, the Brazilian miniseries from a few years ago, I was noticing the way the main actor says “você” and it sounds like “voce-ah”. I believe this is a carioca thing, kind of like how “amor” becomes “amoorhh”. On a Continental flight from Miami to Brazil, there was a promotional video that was played which showed a gringo speaking English like a native (because he was/is), but then he switched to Portuguese, the way a northeasterner would speak, and it was impossible to tell he was from another country. He had everything down, from the accent to the regionalisms, etc.

      There’s a guy named Benny the Irish Polyglot who owns fluentin3months.com if I got that URL correct, and he tried to learn Portuguese in 3 months and speak like a native carioca. He says he had some success but I told him in a forum that it wasn’t really possible in such a short time.

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